Chapter 18

by Charles Dickens

Greatly softened by this soothing beverage, Mr Codlin now bethought him of his companions, and acquainted mine host of the Sandboys that their arrival might be shortly looked for. The rain was rattling against the windows and pouring down in torrents, and such was Mr Codlin’s extreme amiability of mind, that he more than once expressed his earnest hope that they would not be so foolish as to get wet.

At length they arrived, drenched with the rain and presenting a most miserable appearance, notwithstanding that Short had sheltered the child as well as he could under the skirts of his own coat, and they were nearly breathless from the haste they had made. But their steps were no sooner heard upon the road than the landlord, who had been at the outer door anxiously watching for their coming, rushed into the kitchen and took the cover off. The effect was electrical. They all came in with smiling faces though the wet was dripping from their clothes upon the floor, and Short’s first remark was, ‘What a delicious smell!’

It is not very difficult to forget rain and mud by the side of a cheerful fire, and in a bright room. They were furnished with slippers and such dry garments as the house or their own bundles afforded, and ensconcing themselves, as Mr Codlin had already done, in the warm chimney-corner, soon forgot their late troubles or only remembered them as enhancing the delights of the present time. Overpowered by the warmth and comfort and the fatigue they had undergone, Nelly and the old man had not long taken their seats here, when they fell asleep.

‘Who are they?’ whispered the landlord.

Short shook his head, and wished he knew himself.

‘Don’t you know?’ asked the host, turning to Mr Codlin.

‘Not I,’ he replied. ‘They’re no good, I suppose.’

‘They’re no harm,’ said Short. ‘Depend upon that. I tell you what—it’s plain that the old man an’t in his right mind—’

‘If you haven’t got anything newer than that to say,’ growled Mr Codlin, glancing at the clock, ‘you’d better let us fix our minds upon the supper, and not disturb us.’

‘Hear me out, won’t you?’ retorted his friend. ‘It’s very plain to me, besides, that they’re not used to this way of life. Don’t tell me that that handsome child has been in the habit of prowling about as she’s done these last two or three days. I know better.’

‘Well, who does tell you she has?’ growled Mr Codlin, again glancing at the clock and from it to the cauldron, ‘can’t you think of anything more suitable to present circumstances than saying things and then contradicting ‘em?’

‘I wish somebody would give you your supper,’ returned Short, ‘for there’ll be no peace till you’ve got it. Have you seen how anxious the old man is to get on—always wanting to be furder away—furder away. Have you seen that?’

‘Ah! what then?’ muttered Thomas Codlin.

‘This, then,’ said Short. ‘He has given his friends the slip. Mind what I say—he has given his friends the slip, and persuaded this delicate young creetur all along of her fondness for him to be his guide and travelling companion—where to, he knows no more than the man in the moon. Now I’m not a going to stand that.’

You’re not a going to stand that!’ cried Mr Codlin, glancing at the clock again and pulling his hair with both hands in a kind of frenzy, but whether occasioned by his companion’s observation or the tardy pace of Time, it was difficult to determine. ‘Here’s a world to live in!’

‘I,’ repeated Short emphatically and slowly, ‘am not a-going to stand it. I am not a-going to see this fair young child a falling into bad hands, and getting among people that she’s no more fit for, than they are to get among angels as their ordinary chums. Therefore when they dewelope an intention of parting company from us, I shall take measures for detaining of ‘em, and restoring ‘em to their friends, who I dare say have had their disconsolation pasted up on every wall in London by this time.’

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